Sep
21

“I liked the matchup.”

By

When it comes to bullpen management, we’re all armchair tacticians. It seems as though this tendency has intensified in the past few weeks. Joe Girardi has made a number of questionable decisions when calling on his bullpen, which inevitably rouses a flurry of second guessing. Sometimes the moves have been justified; when certain pitchers are unavailable it becomes difficult to make the right decision. But last night Girardi made one of the worst possible decisions, given the situation.

The situation begins in the top of the sixth. Ivan Nova had already gotten through the dreaded fifth inning with ease, allowing just one hit and walking one to that point. The inning didn’t start off well, as the Rays went single, walk, single to load the bases with the heart of the order coming up. It looked as though the Yanks caught something of a break when Carl Crawford hit a dribbler to third, but it turned out that his bat hit Francisco Cervelli‘s glove. It was the sixth time this season that Crawford has been awarded first base on a catcher’s interference call. It also put the Rays on the board for the first time.

Considering the results last time Girardi stuck with Nova, I’m surprised he didn’t turn to the bullpen right there. But apparently he wanted to stick with the righty-righty match-up of Nova against Evan Longoria. This time the call paid off. Nova got ahead 0-2 with a changeup and curveball, and then dropped another curve, this one on the low-outside corner, to induce a 5-4-3 double play. That brought up the lefty Dan Johnson, which signaled the end for Nova. With three straight lefties due up Girardi made the fairly obvious call and went to Boone Logan.

Had Logan succeeded in his job we might not be talking about this situation. He needed to just get one of the three lefties, but instead he allowed two singles and walked a guy. That put the Rays to within one and re-loaded the bases. With the righties B.J. Upton and Jason Bartlett due up Girardi had another obvious decision. This was a tailor-made David Robertson situation. He has been the fireman this season, coming in when the leverage is highest and the team needs an out or two. But instead Girardi turned to Chad Gaudin.

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

At first it seemed as though Robertson might not be available. He had thrown 23 pitches on Sunday against Tampa Bay. Kerry Wood had thrown 25 pitches on Sunday in addition to the 15 he threw on Saturday. Joba Chamberlain would have been a good choice, too, since he had thrown just 11 pitches combined in the previous two days. If Robertson and Wood weren’t available maybe Girardi didn’t want to burn his only setup man in the sixth inning. But even then it seemed like strange decision. Why go with Gaudin in a bases loaded situation? I’d far rather have him pitch the eighth with a clean slate than in the sixth with the bases loaded.

As we learned after Gaudin walked in the tying run, both Wood and Robertson were available. Robertson started the seventh and recorded two outs before Wood came on to get the next four. Why, then, would Girardi go to Guadin when the lead was on the line? After the game he gave the most predictable answer ever:

“I liked the matchup,” he said. “I liked his stuff against Upton and Bartlett, and that was the rationale basically.”

Matchups are fine and all, but baseball is a game where anything can happen in any given at-bat. That’s why it’s preferable for the manager to go with his best overall guy when the game is on the line. It might have been only the sixth, but the Rays had already rallied and could have added a ton more. Girardi has gone to Robertson in similar situations before, so it seemed baffling that he would go to Gaudin when Robertson was available. That Wood was also available makes the situation even more questionable. Unsurprisingly, going with the lesser guy blew up in Girardi’s face.

That’s not to say that he was wrong about the match-up. In his career Chad Gaudin has been hell on right-handed hitters. He has struck out nearly one per inning and has held them to a .253 batting average. His slider has been a particularly effective weapon. That works well against Upton, who has hit sliders poorly in his career and particularly poorly this season. Bartlett has similarly flailed this season when the opposing pitcher throws him a slider. That might make the match-up seem attractive. Unfortunately, Guadin’s slider has not been as effective this year, and he hasn’t been as effective overall against righties. As much as I like to preach career numbers, if a guy isn’t doing something well in a given year it’s tough to expect him to turn it around just because he has done better in his career. In the micro world of individual match-ups recent trends do matter.

Had both Robertson and Wood been unavailable, the choice to go with Gaudin based on match-ups would make sense. He is certainly a better choice than Sergio Mitre, Jon Alabaladejo, Romulo Sanchez, et. al, in that situation. The Rays had two righties coming up, and Gaudin has proven that he can succeed against those guys, at least to a greater degree than anyone else in the bullpen has. But once we knew that Robertson and Wood could have pitched in that situation, it made the decision seem that much worse. When the other team has the bases loaded and you’re up by one and need just one more out, you go with your best available guy. Girardi did not do that.

Addendum: The only silver lining of this decision is that once the playoffs start Girardi will not have so many choices. With the off-days built into the schedule the relievers should be, for the most part, well-rested. Chad Gaudin will also not be an option. Given the relievers who will make the postseason roster, Girardi will find it difficult to make a bad call when going to the bullpen.

Categories : Pitching

94 Comments»

  1. theyankeewarrior says:

    Simple Explanation:

    Joe was stressed out before the game with Torre/Tampa being in town and the whole pre-game ceremony. He turned to the bottle. He was obviously wasted when he put one of the team’s worst pitchers into the game with the bases loaded and the game on the line.

    We all do dumb stuff when we’re wasted. I don’t know why everyone on this site seems to think Joe Girardi is any different. Give the guy a break.

  2. Paulie21 says:

    I wouldn’t discount the possibility that Girardi is holding “tryouts” for the playoff roster when it comes to his bullpen usage over the last couple weeks. Maybe the reason he went to Gaudin is because he wanted to see if he could handle the situation or not. Better to find out now. I think this explanation is also relevant to some of his other decision-making as well (can Gardner get down a bunt when he absolutely must, etc.). I think he’s looking big picture, with the actual game results being a secondary concern. Of course, he’s never going to admit that to the press . . . .

    • Rob says:

      This. These moves can’t be seen in isolation from the prevailing context. And Girardi won’t say to the press he’s holding tryouts. So you get the bland matchup statement.

      I’m surprised you don’t see this perspective, Joe-Paw.

    • nsalem says:

      Good stuff I agree. Joe’s looking for another “hot hand”. Gaudin is not a long term solution, but maybe he can serve as an effective roogy in a playoff situation.

  3. CBean says:

    And now tonight we can expect D-Rob, Wood and Mo to be unavailable right? God Yankees, please blow them out of the water.

  4. Plus, I mean, if Joe wants to audition pitchers in pressure situations for the postseason roster, shouldn’t Vazquez be used at some point in a short or long role? Right now he’s just rotting back there, it’s almost like Joe has already made up his mind that Gaudin will be the long man in the postseason regardless of his or anyone else’s performance.

    • CBean says:

      That’s what I really didn’t get yesterday. They had Javy who can go many innings and has done well out of the bullpen and who is rested. I don’t understand why he didn’t come in unless Joe really expects that he’ll need a long man for one of the next days. Is he afraid no one will punch AJ to make him better?

    • Rob says:

      What if Vazquez is being held back in case they need another starter down the stretch and after they clinch?

      • Assuming he starts for Hughes, which is a reasonable assumption, his rotation spot wouldn’t come up for another 6 days. He should have been available.

        • Rob says:

          Perhaps, but why should Girardi trust him in that situation? Say Javy starts putting guys on-base in the 7th. Now you’ve burned another arm and still have to go to the first tier if you want to win the game.

          If tonight or tomorrow are blow outs in either direction I assume Javy is the first in the game. Let’s see…

  5. boobie says:

    Feeling some hate for logan here. Guy gave up a bloop that had a chance to be caught had grandy gotten a better jump. Walked a guy but with the way Mccellend was umping last night that wasn’t surprising, and then gave up a dribbler down the line to pena which just was put in the right spot. Tough crowd.

  6. Jamal G. says:

    Could the curious and uber-careful handling of Chamberlain be a result of what Cashman said at the start of this season in regards to the pitcher: “He’s a starter in the bullpen”? It would make sense to be extra cautious with his usage as a reliever if you are planning to have him audition for a rotation spot in March 2011.

    • Chris says:

      I think it’s just a general caution with the use of relievers, and not specifically Joba.

      • ROBTEN says:

        This.

        I think that ship — the Joba-as-a-starter express — has sailed, but even if it turns out he gets another shot, I don’t think that was behind the recent usage. He does have the most innings pitched of anyone out of the pen and, if anything, it is more likely that they’re now pacing his use over the remaining games, while still trying to keep him sharp for the playoffs.

  7. The real problem is that since Joe doesn’t like to go with his relievers three days in a row, Robertson, Wood, and Rivera are likely all unavailable. Oh, and Logan, too. Does that mean Chamberlain closes? And probably Albaladejo and Ring could get some setup assignments.

    • Chris says:

      That’s the problem today, but it’s not like there was an obvious move yesterday that could have prevented this.

      • That’s right. During Sunday’s game, though, I was wondering if it would’ve been best to use somebody else other than Chamberlain (maybe Gaudin) to get that one out in the 7th inning before the matchups with Logan. That way, if Chamberlain rested on Sunday, he could’ve pitched yesterday, and … well, things may have been different? Obviously, I have no idea.

  8. JerZGuy says:

    Dear Joe,
    Three indisputable facts. Death & taxes are inevitable, the sun rises in the east and Nova is a 5 inning pitcher so far this year. Maybe you want to have a reliever up and ready in the sixth for his next outing.
    When you’re allegedly fighting for a pennant you may want to pull him at the first sign of trouble, before he gives the lead away.

    Oh and by the way binder boy. Berkman is slugging a robust .349 since joining the Yanks. Kearns .341. Maybe Miranda with his .435 is the better choice?

  9. Tampa Yankee says:

    The Rays broadcast showed the following stats:
    Upton vs. Guadin: 2-14 6K
    Bartlett vs. Gausin: 3-14 4k

    I’m guessing that’s what Joe’s book said as well and hence why he went with Gaudin.

  10. Matt says:

    It’s a mistake to think that going to Gaudin today means he would go to Gaudin in the same spot next month.

  11. j_Yankees says:

    We can bitch, cry and whine all we want about how a manager uses his bullpen in high leverage situations…bottomline is, the inning is always going to be king in dictating who walks through the bullpen door. and in last night’s case i really don’t take issue with it.

    But let’s look at how the rest of the game played out yesterday with D-Rob and Wood. Gaudin walked Upton (thanks to a blah k-zone http://bit.ly/adKLsP ) and got Bartlett to fly out. Tying run scored but it could have been much worse. The next inning D-rob comes in as the Rays lineup flips and allows back to back singles. a force and a sac fly follow. Prompting Girardi to go to Wood to finish that inning up, he walks Dan Johnson and gets Matt Joyce to fly out to end the threat.

    I’d say it’s likely, knowing the way Girardi does things, that whoever comes in after Logan is getting out of that bases loaded jam and then hitting the showers. So if i use Wood or D-Rob, most likely D-rob, there and say they’re done for the night…am i going to use Gaudin in the 7th to face the top of the Rays order, 3 LH bats? am i going to hold him off for the 8th where he could be looking at Longoria and then another string of LH bats? am i going to throw Royce Ring into the deep end of the pool in his first night?

    If i go to Wood in the 6th and let him have the 7th too what becomes of the 8th? If Robertson has issues than who do i go to? Gaudin to work out of a mess which i avoided back in the 6th? I know i don’t have MO for more than 3 outs.

  12. Graig not Craig says:

    >It was the sixth time this season that Crawford has been awarded first base on a catcher’s interference call.<

    Why? Long bat? Back of the batter's box? Long reach? Aggressive catchers?

    • Steve H says:

      Just spoke to Crawford’s wife, she said it’s not the long bat.

    • larryf says:

      swinging off the back foot and/or rocking back before coming forward with the swing? Whatever-I still prefer to keep Gardy and Grandy…

    • Klemy says:

      It almost signals a problem with the hitter, more than the catchers doesn’t it? Maybe it’s just luck. It feels the same to me as the guys who hang over the plate and leave their arm out there to get hit without trying to move though.

  13. steve (different one) says:

    I think the yankees are just caught in a funny spot between having a playoff spot wrapped up but still kindof trying to win the division. It’s a wierd spot to be in and I’m not sure if it’s better to be aggressive to either direction.

  14. dalelama says:

    It seems to me that Nova has problems in the inning following a long big Yankee at bat. I believe in the last two games he blew up after riding the pine for an extended period of time while the Yankees had big innings, maybe he coulld do more to stay warm.

  15. Jerome S says:

    Hey, unless he goes in for some kind of pitching seminar this weekend, why don’t we just not even let Nova pitch in the sixth?

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